Short summary of the district’s history
Epoch before Árpád-age
The first traces of man on the territory of the district emerged in the surroundings of Pesthidegkút, in the Remete canyon: namely those of the Neanderthal man. In Hungary this is the second oldest occurrence of this type. In the second half of the III millennium the archaeologists found on this territory the source of many settlements of the warlike merchant nations belonging to the so-called Bell-vessel culture spread on the Middle East and many other parts of Europe.
There is relatively much information from the Roman age relevant to the history of the II district. In the first century one of the three cavalry units (ala) defending the banks of the Danube garrisoned in the Water-city. After 89 A.D. in the camp surrounding the Bem square the second Adiutrix legion held a garrison in the period of the Sarmatian-Suevi wars, and after the Dacian wars, under the rule of Traian this camp became depopulated. One colony of the Water-city near the Limes road was destroyed by the Sarmatians and Kvads (? – nation belonging to Suevis), and it was no longer rebuilt. In the second half of the III century, on the hills of Buda – for instance on Szemlő-Hill – the military aristocracy from Acquincum possessed landed properties. Around 400 A.D. the Romans evacuated East-Pannonia, and from the V century onwards the traces of the Romanized inhabitants could not have been disclosed anymore.
Under the Hunnish domination the Sarmatians and Germans settled down; after 454 A.D. the side of Buda was in the possession of Sadages-Hunnish nation, the importance of which has been proved by the three rich Hunnish tombs: one of these tombs originates from the ages 430-450, found on the eastern side of Szemlő-hill. This area was the source of a bracelet from the VIII century as well.
According to the assumption of historians Budapest belonged to the residence of the leading tribe named Megyer (mentioned Tarján as well); and one can connect important internal political events to the possession of the ruins of Óbuda. In the path across the Kurucles the archaeologists excavated tombs from the age of Hungarian Conquest. Yet the quantity and the quality of these data argue against any importance of Buda in years after 895 A.D.
From Árpád-age until expulsion of the Turkish
On the territory of the II District the former traces of several settlements can be revealed. Cemeteries dated from the X-XI centuries were found in Nyék, a village that bears the name of a conquering Hungarian tribe (around Szajkó Street of today). The medieval boundaries of this village were formed by Buda, Felhévíz, Hidegkút. It is likely that there was a royal wildlife park lying next to the village, even in the period of Béla III. Its owners in the XIV-XV centuries were – besides the ruling families – mainly nobilities and citizens of Buda. At the end of the medieval age the significance of the village, which was not only a local one, was given by the wildlife park, hunting-seat and summer-house (today Hűvösvölgy Road 78.). The two latter were started to be built by Queen Mary and King Sigismund, than reconstructed and enlarged by King Mathias. It was the favourite hunting site of the royal court residing at Buda mainly under the Jagello-ruling.
In the available historical sources dated from the XIII Century there can be found approximately twenty settlements from Nyék northwards, in which the so called special servicing nations were living, like royal trumpet-players, ennobled by King Louis I in 1373. Some of them moved to Buda, got married into middle-class/ bourgeois families from there, than occupied the main part of Hidegkút. At the beginning of the XVI Century the Podmaniczky family also acquired landed property here. On the eastern border of Hidegkút the village Gerecse is to be found, mentioned firstly in historical sources of 1212; its church was built in the XIII Century. During the two centuries previous to the Turkish conquest it was a densely populated settlement with 50-60 families, consisting of noble peasants with one land.
The history of Felhévíz (Buda) (Superiores aque calidae Budenses) can be traced back to the XII Century. It was named after the hot/thermal springs rushing in the surroundings of the present Császár and Lukács baths. Originally it was a part of Óbuda, its Southern border extended approximately up to the bridgehead of Lánchíd on the side of Buda. The market-place of Felhévíz was presumably the first boat harbour of Gézavásár and Óbuda founded by Géza II, on Bem square of today. The majority of its inhabitants were Hungarian and they were engaged mainly in agriculture. In the XIV-XV Century on the Southern end the national markets of Whitsuntide were held here. Around the market place one can see the royal and baronial palaces and churches. On the Southern hills of the mountains surrounding Felhévíz there were large vineyards. These wine-growing regions belonged to the properties of the King, the Sisters of Margitsziget, the Convent of Felhévíz and the Abbacy of Mogyoród.
After the invasion of Tatars, Buda, a new suburb with Hungarian inhabitants came into existence from the Southern part of Felhévíz, with a parish church in its centre (approximately on the corner of Csalogány and Medve streets), built in honour of martyr St Peter, who gave his name to the settlement. According to András Kubinyi St. Peter suburb was the centre of corn- and crop-trade of Buda.
The St. Lawrence Monastery, the centre of the single Hungarian-founded Barnabite Order, built on the János- and Hárs mountain-pass was a place of great significance regarding national point of view, having an importance the same as Nyék for the royal court and ruling family staying at Buda. It was started to be built in 1300 by the hermits of Pilisszentkereszt on the place of a chapel set up in honour of St. Lawrence. Its ruins can be found now in Budakeszi Road, 93.
At the beginning of the XIV Century it was the principal monastery of the order, later it became an important pilgrimage site. In 1381 the mortal remains of hermit St. Paul, earned by King Louis I as booty of Venice, were buried here. After repeated reconstruction it became the larger monastery of the country, being famous for its valuable library as well. King Mathias was fond of the Barnabites of Budaszentlőrinc, he often moved there and several times empowered them with different privileges. The monastery was destroyed by the Turkish; sources do not mention it after 1541 anymore. In the XIX Century, when its scientific excavation began, the monastery was named Hungarian Escurial.
The Ottoman conquest of Buda took place in 1541. The majority of the villages surrounding Buda became deserted. The inhabitants of Gerecse left definitely their village in 1595, but in Hidegkút in year 1559 only 10 and in year 1662 no more than 12 taxpayers were counted by the defterdars of Buda (executive person under the Turkish rule). Village Nyék was definitely died away, together with the other suburbs of Buda, like Felhévíz and Szentpéter. The stones of the Barnabite monastery of Budaszentlőrinc were brought to the fortification works of the Fortress in 1620.
The larger housing estate surrounding the Fortress in the Turkish age was the so-called Varos (this Hungarian word has been transferred into the Turkish vocabulary). It is in fact the later Water-City, lying at that time among the Széna Square, Bem Square and the Lánchíd bridgehead of today. The Varos was guarded by a double wall system and a large marsh in the surrounding of Széna Square of today. The civil inhabitants, mainly the non-Muslims lived beyond the walls on the hills between the Ice-pit and Széna Square, in separated Hungarian, Jewish, Gipsy and Balkan groups. There were built here four larger and twelve smaller religious assembling places named Dzsámi, mainly on the space of the Christian churches. In 1686 the main army of the Saint League camped between the Sigismund Square and Pasarét of today under the leadership of Charles of Lotharingia. After an examination of these almost 150 years between 1541 and 1686 we can learn not only the fact of devastation but we can be the eyewitness of the masterpieces of Turkish architecture in Hungary, mentioning here the Császár-bath and the Türbe (Islamic saint place or tomb chapel) of Gül Baba.
From the expulsion of Ottomans until the unification of Budapest
After the expulsion of the Turkish occupiers Buda consisted of 6 parts, namely of the Fortress and 5 suburbs, three of which occupied the territory of the II District: Water-city, Landstrasse and Újlak. In the XVII century the reconstruction of the whole country was going on, on these territories as well. While at the beginning of the century only one street could be found in Water-city, in the age of reform there were no more empty building plots at all. The importance of the Water-city was ensured by the commerce and the high number of public and common buildings, being partly military establishments among them. Only the houses around the Fő Street revealed the civil wellness, on the other hand the district – not only from architectural point of view – was of rural type. The Horvátváros was a separate unit populated by Croatian inhabitants; the cemetery of Buda lying on the two sides of St. Charles Street belonged there too. The Landstrasse (Land Street) district received its name from the highway heading towards Vienna; the inhabitants of this region were mainly tradesman. Similarly to the Water-city this region had a rural character.
Újlak is situated along the Danube, while the Országút (Landstrasse) among Szemlőhelgy,
Pálvölgy and Óbuda city district. It was settled out on the remained streets of
the medieval Szentjakabfalva during the XVIII century. The majority of the inhabitants
consisted of Roman Catholic people, engaged in German industry and trade.
During the reconstruction in the XVIII century Hidegkút village came into life again. It was bought by baron Kurz, imperial chamberlain, and colonized with Swabian people from the region of Schwarzwald.
In the age of reform between 1825-1848 beauty spots started to be established
– for instance in Kurucles, Lipótmező – furthermore the Jagerhaus restaurant in
Hidegkút and Szép Juhászné (Pretty Sheperd Woman) restaurant in Zugliget, and
summer cottages too.
From 1873 until the establishment of Great-Budapest
Our district obtained its present image in this age, parallel with the development of Budapest into a metropolis. While Pest meant the economical centre, Buda and a part of the II District became an administrative one. After the unification of year 1873 the busy Water-city did not allow a more significant increase in population number, whereas the larger suburban parts offered a good opportunity for development. The first settlement-planning of the side of Buda was completed in 1876. That planning still left untouched at that time the streets of Water-city. The settlement organization was limited to the side of the Fortress; on Rózsadomb there was regulated only the environs of the Mecset Street. The route was built up from the bridgehead of Margit Bridge in Buda up to the later Mechwart Park, then the works were continued with further sections between 1885 and 1892. As the Margit Bridge brought the hills of Buda closer, and from the Rózsadomb the opposite Lipótváros could be reached easier, the regulation of the Rózsadomb, Rézmál, Szemlőhegy, Vérhalom, Törökvész and Nyék were planned after 1896.
The building up and development of these regions were supported by a regrettable fact as well, namely that in 1880’s the vineyards were destroyed almost completely by a serious Philoxera-epidemic. The road to Pasarét was made in 1899: the development of this district started by this. During the decades the hills of Buda have been slowly built over, and the Water-city started to look like the urban parts of Budapest.
In this period Hidegkút was a Swabian village, which slowly urbanized and gradually
Year 1956 hurt the district in a high degree; many people who were living here became the part of the revolution. Imre Nagy prime minister lived in Orsó Street, Péter Mansfeld, the youngest executed martyr of the movement in Borbolya Street, János Szabó, the leader of battles of Széna Square in Lövőház Street.
The II District was almost fully built over in the seventies and eighties: a thousand years old history under our feet and before our very eyes.